Jed Diamond explains how abandonment, shame, and betrayal impact us throughout our lives.
“All cultures, East and West, have their own unique ways of punishing those whose ideas and behaviors run contrary to established beliefs,” says neuropsychologist Dr. Mario Martinez. These punishments get transmitted from parents to children and show up in our relationships when we fall in love. “These forms of punishment cause emotional damage that surfaces in the form of three archetypal wounds,” which Dr. Martinez describes as follows:
“I call these wounds archetypal,” says Dr. Martinez, “because they are so remarkably consistent across cultures—and the similarities in their mindbody manifestations are striking.”
When I first read about these wounds a shiver ran up my spine. I often get these shivers when I’m tuning into some deep levels of understanding about my own life and the lives of those I love and work with.
Abandonment immediately brought up a memory of a time I was eight years old. Three years prior, my father had tried to take his own life and was in a mental hospital. My mother was doing her best to take care of us while trying to understand what had happened to my father. Most immediately she had to earn some money and had gone out to work part time.
She had me stay with a baby-sitter for a few hours a day when she went out to do typing at an office close to our home. Usually the baby sitter was picked up by her father, but on this occasion she wasn’t available and my mother needed to take the babysitter back home. She told me she would be right back, but it got dark and I became terrified, fearing that something had happened to her and she wasn’t coming back.
I became increasingly frightened and panicked and when she returned I was out in front of the house looking up and down the street sobbing uncontrollably. My mother seemed more concerned about what the neighbors might think and hurried me back inside. She didn’t scold me, but she acted like my crying was unnecessary. I learned to suppress my fears, yet the terror of abandonment continued to live in me throughout my life.
Take a moment to reflect on abandonment in your own life. Many of us have experiences with fathers who may have been absent physically or emotionally or mothers or other family members who left us for short or longer periods of time. What have been your experiences?
Shame brought up memories of being different, that something was wrong with me. When other kids talked about their mothers and fathers they wanted to know where mine were. My mother was often out working while other kids had their moms at home. I felt ashamed that my mother had to work. But I felt deep shame about my father.
No one talked about what happened to him. He never returned home from the mental hospital where he had been sent following his suicide attempt. When kids asked where my father was, I first told him he was in a hospital following an automobile accident, which had actually happened, though he was never hospitalized. But when he continued to be absent, I would finally tell people that he had died. The shame I felt clung to me like old sodden clothes.
Take a moment to think about feelings of shame that you have experienced in your life. How did you deal with it? Does it continue to impact your life and your relationships now?
Betrayal brings back a painful memory of going on a cruise with my first wife. We were with a group of people who had been meeting together in a kind of early “encounter group.” We talked about personal life issues and, given that it was the 1970s, there was a lot of talk about sexuality and “open marriage.”
Since we were on a cruise where there was a lot of “encountering,” my wife and I talked about what our needs and boundaries were around getting involved sexually with anyone on the cruise. We both agreed that talking about sexuality was fine, but this wasn’t the time or place to have things go beyond talking or fantasizing.
We were having a great time on the 7-day cruise, but one evening I couldn’t find my wife when we had planned to get together. After asking everyone I could think to ask in our group about where she was, I became concerned. No one had seen her for several hours. As the minutes ticked by and I couldn’t locate her, I became more and more frightened that something bad had happened to her. I had images of her falling overboard and drowning.
Finally, she turned up looking slightly disheveled and guilty. She admitted she had met a handsome crew member and had gone off with him. “One thing led to another,” she pleaded, “and we ended up in bed.” I wanted to kill her. After our discussion I felt totally betrayed. It took us years of healing, but the betrayal never fully healed. After ten years of marriage, we separated and divorced. However, the fears of betrayal still live in me.
What betrayals have you experienced? How have they impacted your life? Have they fully healed or do they still eat away at you?
It’s said that our bodies never forget. I think that’s true. I suspect that many of the physical problems I’ve had through the years including anxiety attacks, atrial fibrillation, and prostate problems and erectile dysfunction are related to these three archetypal wounds.
Reflect on physical and emotional problems you have. Do you see a possible connection to any of the wounds you’ve experienced? What kind of healing have you done? What still needs to be healed?
I look forward to your comments, questions, and sharing.
Originally posted on MenAlive. Reposted with permission.